Words can hurt us. We all know it. They may not be able to break our bones, but they can break so much more.
Our minds, spirits, and hearts are all things that can be broken by words. I would argue that they can cause more harm than most physical injuries with the exception of death, which cannot really be compared to anything else, and injuries which result in excruciating chronic pain that cannot be ignored. Even injuries which can result in physical disabilities I would say do not hold the same power that words do to us.
From what I know, most people who do experience things like partial paralysis and become wheelchair bound from injuries do not regularly experience pain. While some such injuries do come with chronic pain, the reason being wheelchair bound is such a painful experience is not in the pain itself, but rather the thought that one will never be able to walk again. Thoughts are words. Our own words. Our ideas. There is not too much pain involved in not being physically capable of doing something as that is simply inaction, but the thought of not being able to do something you want to do and believe that you otherwise would or should be able to do.
Physical pain is usually more simple than mental pain, which makes a lot of sense when one considers that generally a physical trauma will affect everybody the same way, but a mental trauma may be a trauma to somebody but nothing to somebody else. The physical act of a knife being stabbed into your shoulder will be experienced more or less the same no matter who it happens to, just perhaps with some different reactions, though those reactions tend to have less to do with the physical sensation itself but rather how they think about it.
The more mental and verbal act of being disowned by your parents, however, could have a much wider spectrum of experience. There are some people whose parents mean the world to them, then there are most people who generally like their parents, there are some people who just do not interact with them very much but still regard them highly, others that do not consider them to be a part of their life for one reason or another, and others still that despise their parents. Down this spectrum it could be experienced as something world shattering, to something awful, to nothing at all, to perhaps even a hearty laugh of spiteful joy. The words they say to you could have no power over you or they could break you entirely.
Physical wounds are visible and it is quite easy to tell when somebody is suffering from them. Mental wounds are not always so obvious. Physical care likewise is usually something straightforward, while mental care can be more complex as the specifics of one’s mind tend to vary in greater ways than the specifics of one’s body.
Defense from physical wounds also tends to be a lot more simple. It is illegal to attack somebody physically, but for the most part it is not illegal to attack somebody with words. There are some exceptions with the “No shouting fire in a crowded theater” type laws which restrict things such as calls for violence, but other than that, defending yourself from words is not something that is the government’s business. The government has a monopoly on physical violence, so it is in charge of such matters. The prospect of giving it a monopoly over words as well is incredibly dangerous.
Defense from words must ultimately come from yourself. Others can aid you, but the experience is your own and you are the only one who can say when it comes to just how much you have been hurt. This is because the words tend to only really hurt when they become your own words. If somebody says something absolutely ridiculous and unfounded about you, you probably will not care and will forget it or think that there is a serious problem with them for even thinking it. When they say something with a grain of truth or that scratches upon the thoughts that trouble your mind the most, that is when they hurt.
Words hurt when our minds cannot handle the ideas. It is something that we must face ourselves, but not all of us are strong enough to do so, and even when we are some of us have moments of weakness when we are not. Physical injuries can lead to death, but words can also lead to death by your own hands. In such cases, others may have been the ones to put the gun in your hand, but you would be the one to pull the trigger. The ideas of hopelessness that the world put into you and the words that others said about you and made you believe can be lethal, but you can also fight them with ideas of your own. Changing your goals could lead to more hopeful prospects and changing your opinion on the opinions of others can make them harmless.
Words can hurt us, but it is possible for us to make them less painful if we bolster our defenses. Though sometimes, that is out of the range of reason. It is possible to not care and never be hurt by anything, a person could in theory live with themselves just fine if for some reason everybody in the world they met told them “You’re an A**hole, F*** off,” but to expect any given person to be able to not be hurt by that is absurd. Sometimes it is just a simple “no” at the wrong time that can be a person’s undoing. We cannot always be ready for everything and there is no reason to expect that everybody should be. Words can hurt and we should always remember and be aware of that.